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Lenin's Bolshevik faction and the Jews in Russia

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Jewish question
    1. Lenin's Bolshevik faction
    2. Lenin's approach to the Jewish question
    3. His distrust of the perpetuation of Jewish 'national culture'
  3. Post Tsarist Russia
    1. Kerensky's reluctance to take Russia out of WWI
    2. Hickey's concentration on the city of Smolensk
    3. Fighting Zionism by prohibiting all activities of Zionist organizations
  4. Trotsky and Stalin
    1. Trotsky's choice not to join the Bund
    2. Trotsky and The Society of the Godless
    3. Stalin: The ferocious anti-Semite
  5. Conclusions

Jews in the nineteenth and early twentieth century were assimilating into the broader Gentile culture of Europe, thanks to the immense pressures of modernization and, to a lesser extent, democratization. The Jews of Russia faced much of the same choice as the rest of the Russian population in the early part of the twentieth century. Tsarism appeared to be a break of both modernization and democratization, and the consequences of the lagged development were becoming increasingly clear economically and politically. In 1904, Russia actually lost the Russo-Japanese War, the first ever instance of a European power losing a war to an "upstart" modern Asian nation. The Jews of the Russian Empire were treated incredibly poorly. As Russia expanded westward in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Jewish populations were absorbed into the Russian Empire but not into the society. Jews were banished to the immense ghetto of the Pale, and kept impoverished through a variety of legislation designed to limit Jewish property, wealth, and access to jobs. Jews, like other Russians, were conscripted into the Army, but given the worst posts. Then there were the fierce programs against Jews both in the cities and beyond, in the settlements.

[...] These Jews in the party were turned against Judaism, and helped weaken the Bund significantly: Beginning in June 1919, the Jewish sections fought Zionism by prohibiting all activities of Zionist organizations. The Jewish sections had a stranglehold on communal organizations in the Jewish community. Religion, their main target, was under constant attack. The Evsektsiia urged such ferocious combat against Judaism in the years 1920 to 1922. Can these attacks be considered anti-Semitic rather than simply anti-Zionist or anti-religious? Certainly the Bolsheviks attacked the public cult of Russian Orthodoxy in order to break its power over the populace as well. [...]

[...] The remainder of this essay will examine the relationships between Jews and the Bolshevik party, and how that ideological partnership collapsed. With the rise of Stalin, anti-Semitism returned with full force to the Russian world. The libratory promises of Marxism had been rendered hollow. "The Jewish Question" The RSDLP, due to the fact that its Bolshevik faction was the ultimate "winner" of the revolution of 1917, is central to early twentieth century Russian history. Despite "Bolshevik" meaning "majority," it is important to note that for most of the history the faction of Lenin (and on the eve of the October Revolution, Trotsky) was only a small faction of one of many parties with revolutionary ideals. [...]

[...] Though over 700 Jews were killed in programs mounted by Red Army detachments, the Red Army command condemned these actions and punished them. Jews came to regard the Red Army as their protector, and young Jews joined it in order to avenge the crimes against their families and people. (p. 106) However, Bolshevism was not the only revolutionary alternative. The Jewish Socialist Labor Bund was founded in 1897, at roughly the same time as the modern Zionist movement was founded. [...]

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